At a recent 'club night', Jock mentioned Tree
Bumblebees and suggested we keep a look out for them.
John picked up a dead one in Star Street this afternoon.
Common in Europe, it was first recorded in the UK in 2001,
it has been spreading steadily northwards and reached
Scotland in 2013, particularly along the eastern coast
areas. Still something of a rarity in our area.
(Added later). May not be such a rarity after all! In
evening, a few 'bummers' working the flowering cherry
in front of John's house. On closer inspection, at least
two (one quite large, one small) were also Tree Bumblebees.
Another, initially dismissed as just being one of our
very common White-tailed Bumbles, actually turned out
to be a Buff-tailed one (needs a good view to tell the
differenece), not all that common but we do do see them
now and then.
John also saw
a male Blackcap in his garden yesterday. Jock apparently
saw one earlier in the week.
Down at the
reserve this morning, some 25-30 Sandmartins are flying
around and exploring the holes in our Sandmartin bank.
Dave Bradshaw reports Chiffchaff calling in wood
above Beechgrove on Thursday and a Swallow over the Sports
Barn carpark. And, on Friday, Margie saw 4 Swallows over
the Beattock/Evan Water bridge.
First butterfly of the year in John's garden today
- a Peacock.
Dave Bradshaw reports that he and Margie heard
a Yellowhammer on Saturday near Station Park carpark.
This is the first Yellowhammer report for many, many years!
Also heard Chiffchaff in same general area.
Also on Saturday,
Iain counted over 1200 Pinkfoot Geese passing northwards
during his paper round. And down at the reserve, two Goosander
and two Teal were on the main pond.
Ball - "thought I heard whoopers calling about 11pm
last night so I got up early this morning and found a
couple of them on the MDCNR Wader Scrape about 7am. One
with immature plumage."
John had a walk round our reserve and noted almost every
ditch had a few frogs in it. The big ditch had very high
numbers, estimated at 40 or more over only part of it!
Two more frogs seen in the Woodland Pond and half a dozen
or so in the Middle Pond. Pleased to see quite a few Sticklebacks
active in the big ditch again following its excavation.
From John - was sitting in front of my computer
when a spider came abseilling down past my nose. Grabbed
the magnifying glass and chased it around the desk while
noting its appearance as it was a type I'd not seen before.
Got a container to hold it to try for a photo but, sure
enough, in those few seconds it had escaped somewhere!
However, after much browsing of spider info, I finally
got the answer. It was a Steatoda bipunctata, one
of the false widow spiders, commonly known as a 'rabbit
hutch spider' as often found there. Apparently quite common
throughout the UK yet first time I've come across one.
Signs of spring! Chiffchaff heard calling down
at our reserve yesterday morning.
A message from Jean (Hoppertitty):
"Thought I'd send you this pic of frogs yesterday.
Counted 22 at one point in our pond - plenty of croaking
and interestingly the copious spawn has been deposited
in a much deeper part of the pond this year.
Saw first bumblebee of this year briefly yesterday too.
Lovely to see a bit of sunshine."
(Photo has been cropped to fit the page
Frogs are also
active down at the reserve now with a fair number on the
Woodland Pond yesterday though none evident on the other
ponds as yet.
what triggers activity, a source giving lots of info about
frogs and toads states that activity normally starts when
the nighttime temperature reaches approximately FIVE degrees
over a few nights but can be occur when THREE degrees
is reached, especially when rain is expected. A further
source informs us that his frog activity always seems
to occur at the first full moon after the latter part
of February! John's frogs seem to have retired after two
weeks - night camera now showing only the odd one or two
- but still no explanation on why active only at night
this year, never in the daylight.
A couple of recent reports for you.
The first from Ken Hines, Smith Way,Beattock
" It's been a rather unusual year with little bird
activity other than the regulars, chaffinch, house sparrow
and starling. However the last week to 10 days has seen
a sudden influx of assorted birds, approx 30 siskins,
a similar number of goldfinches, 2 reed buntings, 2 lesser
redpolls and great spotted wood pecker. All this despite
same food being available all winter, no idea why the
is from Iain with various sightings -
Peter Ball saw and photographed a wader on the raft on
the Community Reserve lochan with a group of 15 or so
Oystercatchers on Tuesday 10th March. After having sent
photographs to various people and myself and Garry seeing
the bird on the Wednesday/Thursday it has turned out to
be a female Black Tailed Godwit......which is a great
sighting and to the best of my knowledge a first for the
Moffat/Beattock area. Also at the Community Reserve on
the Thursday were 31 Whooper Swans, 3 Mute Swans, 4 female
Goosander, 2 Little Grebe, 1 Cormorant and the odd Curlew.
While last Saturday on the newest dug out pond on the
Meadow were a family of 6 Whooper Swans with 3 Curlew
passing overhead. Michael Currie reported seeing the female
Peregrine over Moffat for the first time this year today.
And from Ron
Lewis-Smith on the subject of frogs -
"Regarding the latest news item about the lack of
frog (and toad?) activity is most likely because of their
sensitivity to temperature. Typically, at this time of
the year, as soon as the night air temperature reaches
around 10 degC they suddenly appear in their hoards making
for their spawning ponds. I guess we haven't experienced
that so far, whereas we did by this time last year."
Very informative, but temperatures in Moffat are still
a long way below 10 degrees at night and John's frogs
have been busy during nightime but absent in the day,
quite a bit of spawn in the pond and there are still a
fair few frogs active at night. Looks like there must
be another explanation somewhere.
Surprisingly, few reports so far of frog activity.
However, the pond in John's garden has seen quite a bit
over the past week or so and there is a good quantity
of spawn now. Oddly, all activity has been during the
hours of darkness with probably 50 or more present. My
night camera shows frogs in plenty from about mid-evening
to around 5.00am when they start to vanish and by full
daylight there is only an occasional frog to be seen.
In previous years, activity has been going on both day
and night. Anyone got any idea why the change this year?
(Removed, no longer relevant)
From Ron Lewis-Smith -
At last seen my first brambling this winter -
in fact a tight flock of at least 200 on the ground and
in large oak and beech trees on the Alton Motte, and vicinity,
from c. 10-10.30 am today during flurries of snow.
This is by
far the biggest sighting we have heard of this season!
February 2015 - A change of program for the March
Our scheduled speaker has unfortunately had to cancel.
However, all is not lost as Bobby Smith has stepped
into the breach. Although we don't have his topic yet,
it will no doubt be just as interesting as his previous
presentations. See you there!
Have just received two annual reports from Andy
Riches. The first is for Castle
Loch & Hightae LNRs 2014. The second
is the County
Mammal Report for 2014.
Andy adds the following comment regarding the latter -
" You will have noticed that the Roe Deer distribution
map for 2014 shows a substantial reduction in distribution
from that of 2013. This is almost certainly not a true
reduction in distribution but a lack of records. It is
crucial to remember that the maps reflect records received
and there may well be areas and species that are heavily
under recorded. Under recording is a particular problem
with common species such as the Roe Deer or the Rabbit.
Now you know what I am looking for to include in the 2015
2015 - European Tree of the Year
We have a message from Jonathan Pinnick, one of the team
that works for the Scottish Wildlife Trust at Loch of
the Lowes -
There is no
postal vote this time, only on-line. The following link
will take you to the entry page.
The entry form is on the right of the page, you may have
to scroll over to see it..
Latest update from Iain -
Very little to report from the start of the year. Local
shooters reported seeing very few Woodcock in our area
but lots of Wood Pigeon feeding on Beech mast. Very few
winter birds around such as Redwing, Fieldfare, Brambling
and Waxwing. A lack of Tawny Owls being heard? Anybody
heard a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker? Only sightings
I have are a Golden Eagle over Moffat on the 13th and
a flock of 42 Brambling at Millhousebridge from Garry
Tait. At the Community Reserve lochan on the 14th were
5 Mute Swan and a Pink Footed Goose. Garry saw three Black
Grouse near Tweedshaws on the 16th. Hopefully the remainder
of Winter and the return of Spring will bring some more
And some reports from Dave Bradshaw -
18/01/15 - 1 Brambling with Chaffinch Beattock country
park, still 1 juv Mute Swan on lake with 2 Adults. They
seem to have distanced themselves from it. Other 7 have
left. 2 Bullfinches outside in trees by railway bridge.
21/01/15 - Leadhills road 2 female Kestrels, 1 Red Grouse.
28/01/15 - Siskin numbers are building up here in Cornal
Court, usually peak late March, early April. There has
been a flock of about 15 Goldfinches since before Xmas.
This morning 3 Bullfinches on the trees dropping on to
the grass alongside the garages to feed. Also a Treecreeper.
My feeder and gardent his morning at one time had 13 Goldfinch,
5 Siskin, 5 House Sparrow and 8 Chaffinch. At the reserve
yesterday a pair of Mute swan. 2 Dippers at Beattock bridge,
1 at Station Park bridge. 170 Pinkfeet over the co op.
And John adds - was complaining to Iain on Wednesday that
hadn't heard any Tawnies for months only to hear one calling
that evening! Blue Tits are scouting nest boxes and House
Sparrows inspecting the spaces under roof edges around
Greenwood Close so spring must be on its way.
Here we are with another year and with little
to report! Our usual winter visitors have been few and
far between this season, a few small flocks of Redwing,
likewise of Fieldfare, only an occasional sighting of
Brambling and no further reports of Waxwing since November.
It looks like most of us have has a distinct drop in the
number of birds coming into our gardens, they must still
be finding plenty of 'natural' food and prefer that to
our offerings. Numbers have gone up on the few hard days
we've had, only to drop off again as soon as the frosts
have lifted. There is no cause for concern, the bird population
is as healthy as it ever was. John's garden is renowned
for the lack of birds in wet weather and last week saw
a record low - Blackbird and Chaffinch only and only a
few of each - offset by a more normal 6-8 types of bird
in much greater numbers the following day.